I Must Confess I Can’t Report: Sexual Harassment & Silence
We leave the club after 3am and make it two steps before I’m cornered by the dude who wants to talk to the “soul sista” (my locs were down so I guess that makes me her…?). I give him my Instagram handle as a distraction from my phone number and escape to my friend waiting up ahead.
“That has to be exhausting.”
I’m shocked. No congratulations that random guy on the street who you have zero interest in wants to bang you! I’d just spent the past few hours parrying his friend’s possessive attentions (he’d romantically proclaimed, “if my ex wasn’t here I’d fuck you up.”). So I tell him the truth.
“Oh my God, yes it is.”
I suck at dealing with harassment. I still feel that whatever happens is my fault; it’s my bit of internalized misogyny. The idea that he was a good person but I had to flirt, to smile, to wear those clothes. It’s a lesson I got at home and a lesson I got at my otherwise liberal church. Be careful what you do so you don’t serve as a temptation to men, actively or passively.
It’s stupid and completely false. But it’s what keeps me reacting with an uncomfortable smile and laugh and trying to brush it all off.
Like I said before, I’m actively breaking myself out of this mode of thinking and this reinvention is giving me plenty of chances to practice.
I’m better at responding to the small things: catcalling, unwanted compliments, people trying to grab me or interrupt my phone conversations. I’m not quite at clap back level yet (it’s a process, y’all) but I at least give rudeness a clipped reprimand (very Victorian of me, I know…I’m working on it). It’s easy with strangers. If I don’t know you don’t touch me. I don’t even like when people touch me on the subway; I tolerate it (barely) because we all have somewhere else to be but I still hate it. The bigger issue for me is when someone I know, have had conversations with, decides to use me at their convenience.
I’ve had a security guard proudly slap me on the ass while I rang up a customer. I’ve had a drunk old man announce, at a relatively upscale event, that he couldn’t stop staring at my ass. I’ve had someone I considered a friend put his hands on me in the middle of a performance because he claimed I was leading him on. I’ve had a supervisor take advantage of me when I was too drunk to say no. And in none of these situations did I have the energy to speak up. I was silent and would’ve stayed that way but for some amazing friends.
And maybe that’s the way past this. Finding people to trust who’ll support you when you can’t support yourself. And I want to be that person for myself so I can be that for someone else.
What do you want to conquer? What’s one thing that you need support to confront?